Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Pictures

2014 was a year that came with many tears and just as many joys.  I was able to start and end the year running which was only made possible by the Grace of God and with the support of Rachel.

Most amazing part of the year was when I got engaged to my best friend on the most romantic trip ever.  Don't believe me?  Ask Rachel the story!
  • 2,136 miles running
  • 6,679 miles cycling
  • 7 wins (73 career)
  • 12 top 3 finishes (159 career)
  • 22 total races (341 career)
  • 4th overall at Mountain Mist 50k after tearing the meniscus in my knee
  • Repeating as winner of McKay Hollow Madness six weeks after knee surgery
  • 12 donuts eaten (during a race) and 15 minutes of fame as the 3-time Donut King
  • Asked one amazing woman to marry me
  • Cycled across Alabama in under 10 hours
  • Paced 1:30 at Bridge Street and Huntsville Half marathon
  • Vocal cord surgery (no pictures taken)
  • Paced 3:35 at Rocket City Marathon

The year started off with a strong performance at Xterra Monte Sano 15k splashing in the puddles like a kid and hanging on for 2nd place overall.  This is also a race that I co-direct along with Dirty Spokes Productions.

At the end of January I had my best ever Mountain Mist 50k, finishing 4th overall.  I fell four times on the land trust and ran the last 10 miles with a torn meniscus in my left knee.  I managed the 2nd fastest second half split and was the fastest local finisher.

Within days after Mountain Mist, I had knee surgery to remove the tear in my meniscus.  Having surgery was no guarantee of being able to run again,  so this was the most terrifying month of my life.  A week after surgery I was able to walk 400 feet, on crutches and cried the entire time.  After two weeks I was able to get on the trainer and start my comeback.

Just 4 weeks after surgery, I was able to run and win the Care Center 5k in New Hope, for the 4th consecutive time.  This was a very emotional race for me at it marked the paramount of my comeback.

The goal race of my spring and my comeback was McKay Hollow Madness 25km, which was just six weeks after my knee surgery.  I was unable to run any trails leading into the race and had no idea how my knee would react to the twisting motion of trail racing.  I was able to run with Rob for the first 10 miles and then slowly pulled away for the overall win and repeated as winner.  The look on Eric Fritz's face, who stood at the top of Death Trail and was expecting to see anyone but me appear in first, was priceless.  One of the best races of my career.

In April I entered my first multi-sport race and didn't suck. Well I ran well but had no chance of competing on a road bike against guys with time trial bikes but I tried something new!

Lingering knee pain started to surface in late April and despite following the doctor's suggested plan, I made a bad decision by racing the Lake Guntersville Duathlon on Saturday then running the final day of Grand Viduta Stage races. Originally I was going to race all three days but I was nervous about three days of trails but I still ran the final day. Despite the fastest time of the day, it was foreshadowing of days to come with setbacks.

In early May I decided to go to the Lake Guntersville Triathlon Festival and try the trail race and hill climb. Having a road bike and strong climbing legs paid off as I was the fastest to the top of the hill on the bike! Totally stunned! Pictured here with Nathan Graves who was second on the climb.

Photo courtesy of KatieBeth Pierson

In May while in Seattle, I asked Rachel to marry me!

In June I had another MRI on my knee and though results were inconclusive, I still was having a lot of pain and unable to run.  I decided to take the months of June and July off from running and just focusing on cycling which did not hurt.  I switched training to focus on riding 180 miles across Alabama on the 4th of July, which meant many long training rides on the Arsenal.

Photo courtesy of KatieBeth Pierson

On July 4th, I road 181.11 miles across Alabama from Georgia to Mississippi along the same route as Eric Schotz, Jon Elmore and I ran in 2009 to honor Elliott Schotz, who was suffering from Tay Sachs. 5 years. Starting in the dark at 5:00am from near Mentone, Alabama there was 16,624' of elevation change on the east to west route that finished in Red Bay, Alabama. I averaged 19.4 miles per hour for a total ride of 9 hours 20 minutes and 25 seconds. Finishing at 2:50:10pm I spent less than 30 minutes off the saddle all day and averaged 18.41 mph including rest stops. Rachel Cochran was my crew for the day, providing tremendous support, especially late in the day when I was starting to fall apart in the mid-day heat. I just hope that my efforts are a difference maker, even to a single person.

I had the good fortune in late summer to summit 6 more peaks along the I-90 corridor east of Seattle. This was the pinnacle, standing atop Granite Mountain with a clear view of Mount Rainier in the background.  A cortisone shot in my knee helped to take the edge off the pain and made running possible.

In September I had the good fortune of going to New Zealand for work, traveling from the north end of the north island to the south end of the south island over a three week period.  I was able to run everywhere I went, including the Tongariro Crossing.

In late September I entered my third duathlon at Racin' the Station on Redstone Arsenal.  I fought back on the second run to overtake 3rd place.

In 2014 I tried to volunteer more and part of that included helping friends realize their goals.  In October I helped Susi Bowermaster crush her personal best in the 15k.

In October I ran Liz Hurley 5km for the time and posted a season best 17:34.

In November I got 15 minutes of fame after giving an interview with the Huntsville Times that got picked up by a nationally circulated newspaper as the two time defending Krispy Kreme Challenge. Though facing a sub 2:30 marathon, I was able to out-eat friend David Wall to repeat at winner and take the title of Donut King for the 3rd time.

In early December after a second cortisone shot in my knee, I ran the Galaxy of Lights 5km chasing teammate and friend Jim Clemens and with a final uphill surge, finished 3rd place overall.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Round Two Looming

The good news is that at my 3-week post surgical follow up today, the doctor indicated that the healing of my vocal cords is going well.  I should be able to return to talking "normally" by January, which is right on schedule.  My rigorous enforcement of not speaking for the first 10 days, followed by a schedule of only necessary speaking, in short sentences at a low volume, paid off in spades as the saying goes.

The bad news is that there were massive amounts of papilloma on my vocal cords and in the first laryngoscopy, they were not able to take care of them all (nor was it advised).  There was some early suspicions that this may be case leading into the surgery but they wouldn't know until the follow up to see how things had healed and what remained.  Now it is fairly clear that I will require another procedure, similar to the first, to finish the work.  

Deep breath.

Until the second surgery can be performed to remove the papilloma and polyps that still exist, I will probably have a lower than normal speaking volume.  The date of the second surgery is not known; for now I have a follow up video session to see in detail how they (my vocal cords) look and then we will determine a course of action.  From discussions with the doctor, I gathered that we may be looking at sometime late spring to early summer.  While I will not have the same exact symptoms leading into this round of surgery as I had with the first (raspy voice, sore throat, voice disappearing by mid day), the papilloma won't go away on their own and surgery is required to (eventually) return to speaking a normal levels.  Beyond that, additional procedures over the course of my lifetime may be needed if they return, but for now that is not likely.

After the second surgery, I can expect a similar recovery as to what I am going through now.  That means another 10 days of not talking, followed by 6 weeks of necessary speaking only, in short sentences and at a low volume.

It's not all gloom and doom.  The doctor was happy with my progress and acted like round two was just another routine out patient surgery.  I feel pretty good about his attitude.

In other words, I will have to relive November and December of 2014, again, in June and July of 2015.  It could be much worse; my air passage is now much clearer and I can breathe well without as many obstructions.  I am able to run and the rest of my health is good.  I am thankful for the little things in life and feel blessed to be surrounded by good friends and family.  I could not ask for anything more.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Donut King

Some races you try to run your fastest.  Some races you run to win.  This race you run and try to not throw up on your shoes.

Back in 2011, coming off of running 2:54 at the New York Marathon, I decided to run the Krispy Kreme Challenge for fun and see how I would stack up versus the competition.  Being a skinny guy, people probably underestimated my ability to eat.  I managed to set the course record in 28:53 and had a sub six-minute donut eating split.

In 2012 the Challenge did not work out well for my running schedule, but I was back in 2013 and was able to win again, albeit with a slower time of just under 30 minutes.

This year I was very concerned about my ability to eat quickly, given that I had vocal cord surgery a few weeks prior.  I wasn't fully cleared to eat gluttonously that would be required for the Krispy Kreme Challenge, but I wanted to give it my best shot to defend my title.

I warmed up with my prime (running) competition, David Wall, who was a sub 2:30 marathon just a few years ago.  He had some setbacks with injuries, but was healthy again and running very well.  I knew that I would probably give away 30 seconds in the first 2-mile running segment.  Then there was David Rawlings, former Donut Champion from 2010, who is a great eater and can run fast enough to pose a threat.  Beyond the "Davids," there is always a chance that an unknown runner or high schooler would show up and run well.

With the temps in the upper 20's, I was doing my final warm up sprints out and back from the start to stay warm.  I was watching the clock as it ticked down to the 8:00am start.  With about 3 minutes on the clock, I heard the emcee start a ten-second countdown to the start. I rushed to the start and ducked under the starting banner just in time for the gun to go off.

The pack was out fast, but I settled into my goal pace quickly which helped me to move up to near the front before the first mile split.  By the time we turned onto Church Street, I had moved into 2nd place behind David (Wall).  The weather was perfect to run fast and I was able to turn into the Krispy Kreme parking lot in at under 5:45 pace.  I had only given up 30 seconds to David (Wall) and now it was time to eat!

I grabbed my box and a cup of water and moved over to the Huntsville Utilities Transformer, using it as a table for my donuts, to eliminate having to bend over to grab a donut and free up my hands to eat.

I can't give away my eating strategy, but if you were there you could easily figure it out.  I could tell that David (Wall) was struggling to eat his donuts, but David (Rawlings) was quickly making up the difference he lost in running by his supreme eating prowess.  The eating is such chaos with sugar flying everywhere.  I struggled this year with my eating, but still had a sub 8-minute split.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Bright

I finished my last donut and got a sticker indicating that "I met the challenge."  I tossed my box into the air and took off running.  People were yelling as I took off and then I realized that I the sticker did not stick and I had to double back to get it.  Unfortunately, when I came to a stop, I slipped on a donut and fell down hard.  I cut up my elbow and cracked my head pretty good on the pavement.  Luckily, it was cold enough that I was wearing a winter hat that softened the blow.  The fall gave me a little rush of adrenaline, along with being the first eater to head back out on the run back.

Photo courtesy of James Hurley

Last year I was able to hold just under six-minute pace on the way back so I thought that I would be happy with that, but knowing that the competition was much better this year, I probably had to run 5:45 to hold them off.  I love seeing all of the runners heading out to eat as they cheer while I am running back to the finish!

I was surprised that I felt comfortable at 5:45 pace but I love running in the cooler temperatures so I just focused on the lead cop car heading back to the finish.  When I got to Monroe, I could hear the dread train... luckily I was already across the tracks so it would pass behind me but I didn't know how it would impact the rest of the pack.  I didn't see anyone behind me on glance, so I knew that I would not have to worry about anyone closing the gap in the last mile, but it may make the race for second place very interesting.

My watch was a little messed up so I wasn't quite sure of my overall time until I saw the clock at the finish.  I crossed the line at 30:38 and managed my third win in three attempts at the Krispy Kreme Challenge.

I  mentioned it in my interview with John Corrigan, but I will mention it again here.  While I love the (Krispy Kreme) challenge, for me it really is about supporting the cause.  United Cerebral Palsy of Huntsville does great things for people who have disabilities and any way I can help bring attention to their cause is the least that I can do.  While it is nice to be crowned winner for another year, I just like to have fun with this event and  I even break out a running singlet from my hometown Kingsford Flivvers for the race, even though I didn't start running until I was 28 years old.

The battle for second was decided by train! David Rawlings left out of the parking lot in second, but when stopped by the train, David Wall was able to close the gap. Some people complain about the train crossing as it is unpredictable; I actually enjoy it because it adds an element of adventure.  Here are the top three.

Official Results

The award this year for overall winner was very "fitting."

Photo courtesy of David Rawlings

Photo Courtesy of Katie Beth Peirson

Now I have another year to think about defending my title and going for number 4 (wins) or if I should retire on top, as Donut King.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thankful. Birthday. Donut

As part of the recovery from my recent direct laryngoscopy, I was advised to begin with a 7-10 day period of total silence.  Not a single word spoken aloud, not even a whisper.  Just two days into the quiet time, I reflected that it was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.  Not being able to talk made me feel very alone and isolated.  It was difficult to interact with people in real time and impossible to have a "conversation".  I just want to say, something.  Anything.

As the week progressed, it did not get easier, but I got better at interacting with people using hand gestures, hand written notes and text messages.  Just yesterday I participated in a work meeting where everyone else was present in a room and I typed and had someone interpret.  It actually gave me a new found respect for how and when to add value and interject with a point I needed to make.  People were very patient with me and that helped very much.

Being able to run made the time seem less like solitary confinement imprisonment and more like county jail.

So today was the day that had been circled on the calendar for when I could begin speaking softly (using my inside voice as it was described to me) in short sentences and only very sparingly.  No full conversations and rest after speaking even a few words.

I had built up in my mind that I would just open my mouth and the words would flow out just as they did before I initially became hoarse back in August.  So it was very disappointed when I uttered my first words and it was not the case at all.

In a scratchy sounding voice with hardly any volume and cracking on every syllable, I said my first three words.

"Thankful, Birthday and Donut"

I had to do more research to feel better that the symptoms I was experiencing while speaking were common.  

I called my mom and dad and talked to Rachel.  I said real words.  Outloud.

I spoke sparingly but can tell that it hurts and need to now rest for the remainder of the day.

The recovery schedule includes another week of just sentences or sentence fragments.  I plan to dangle some participles and drive Rachel crazy.  Then after that will be 2 more weeks of speaking for no more than 15 minutes per hour, with 45 minutes of rest.  Then there will be a progression where I can speak more and more each week until I should be back to normal by January.

Thanks to all of the colorful guess as to what my first words would be.  Congrats to Lori Gierloff and Shari Crowe for guessing correctly!  You win my lifetime friendship which means a lot to me!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Reality of Dreams

The backstory

I was pretty smart as a kid which was to my advantage and earned me many favors from teachers.  I was tall and lanky, but uncoordinated and socially awkward which was made me a prime target to be picked on.  I was subjected to more teasing from the school yard bullies than any kid should have to bear.  My grade school and preteen years were fairly lonely times when I would rather bury my head in a book than risk the brutal nature of kids on the playground. While most of that time is a blur, I remember specifically a few people who made life very difficult for me.  For the most part I just put up with it and never stood up for myself.  I do remember fighting back once while in 7th grade, when the years of rage had built up and I was pushed beyond my tipping point.  There was this tough kid who took every opportunity to tease me and it was more than enough for him to make my life miserable.  I finally stood up to him one day in the locker room after gym and landed a pretty good punch to his face.  It barely left a mark and really did nothing to his deter his constant harassment, but at least I drew a line in the sand and said that I had enough.

I did play sports from an early age, but through my middle school years I had some significant growth spurts that made me very clumsy and in a lot of pain.  I still have the stretch marks on my lower back from the year I grew six inches.  I lacked the size or tenacity to play football, which ruled in our small town.  I did excel at soccer and had a few very good years as an all star first baseman.

My dream

I am 15 years old and standing at the plate in one of our last Babe Ruth baseball games for Town & Country.  We had an unbelievable team that went 15-0 that year and our lineup was stacked from top to bottom.  Batting lead off and now standing on 3rd base was my boyhood friend, Scott Giuliani.  Scott and I grew up just few blocks from each other, which meant we went to all the same schools, but I shared more than just proximity with Scott.  We shared a birthday, and along with a couple of others, were inseparable all throughout our youth.  Skeeter and I were best friends.

In the dream, I drive the ball to the fence, which was about right for me... never hitting for power but always hitting for average and driving in runs from the clean off spot.  Coming into score after Scott were Andy LeBlanc and Don Bunin.  I round first base in excitement knowing that we had won the game.  Everyone from the bench was waiting at home plate, which also included our coaches (my dad, Andy's dad and Scott's dad Ernie).  I cut through the infield and run straight for home plate. When I finally find my way through the celebration tin find Scott, he picks me up off the ground and is yelling that we won.  When he finally puts me down, he gives me a big bear hug to celebrate.

The reality

Here is where the reality of today meets the  dream.  Even though I am just 15 years old in the dream, I know that in the present time I don't have a chance to see Scott again.  I don't have a chance to thank him for standing up to me as the weakest member of our group of friends and for always having my back to the bullies of the playground.  I don't have a chance to thank him for riding bikes with me or trading baseball cards with me or to even thank him and his brother Paul for picking me up for school everyday when it was clearly out of there way.  I don't have a chance to tell him how much it meant for me as the uncool kid, to have such a cool best friend who never let his popularity go to his head.  Scott continued to get better as a high school athlete and we tended to go our separate ways after that season of baseball but he was always my friend.  Even as he was surrounded by the best athletes of our school, he never once picked on me, even when I probably made a pretty easy target.

Scott passed away a few years ago, so in reality I never got the chance to tell him what his friendship meant to me as a kid.  I don't know that I knew it at the time or maybe it has taken all of these years to figure out, but he was one of the reasons why I made it through those tough years and have had the strength to go on today to be a successful runner today.  I can see him running fast as lightning around the bases both a vivid memory of our childhood and like it was happening in real time of my dream.  Sometimes when I am running a race I picture myself chasing him, knowing that I will never catch up.

In the dream, when Scott gave me the bear hug, I refused to let go.  I just remember hanging on. While combining the reality of present with being 15 years old, I know that I won't have this chance again and I am not ready to let him go.  He doesn't slip or fade away in the dream; I just wake up.

I don't live my life with regrets.  I have made the best of every situation, worked very hard, gotten some lucky breaks and had help along the way by people like Scott.  People who will stand up for you and stand by you through thick and thin.  Right now Scott is sitting in heaven wearing his Detroit Tigers jersey, talking about baseball with his dad Ernie and they are looking down on me as I type.   I don't regret missing the chance to tell him how much I appreciated his friendship because I know that he knows.  Scott knows.

I don't regret this, but I also am not going to lose another opportunity to tell those people around me how much I appreciate them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Not one of the 3 percent

Today is the day I have been anxiously waiting for.

The results were due back from the biopsy taken during surgery. Though there was a 97% chance that the papilloma were not cancerous, but until I could hear the words for myself, I haven't been able to sleep through the night.

The phone just rang.  It was the nurse.  It's not cancer.  Deep breath.  Smile.  Cry.  Smile.

I didn't say anything; not because I couldn't but because I couldn't.  The nurse said that she would have more information for Rachel when they spoke later this afternoon.

Smile.  I am not one of the 3%.

In lesser order but still of significance, is the cause of the papilloma.  This was caused by a virus, which was confirmed by the nurse.  All of my research shows that there is a potential for recurrence, but the nurse said that this is not necessarily the case.  When I have my follow up appointment in a few weeks I should be able to ask more questions, which will include what measures I can do prevent it from coming back.  For sure there were be daily medicine to suppressing the laryngopharynheal reflux and probably a few other measures.

Now three days into my quiet time, I am starting to figure out why not talking is so hard.  At first I just felt alone because I couldn't speak or tell anyone using words how I felt or what I was going through.  It really wasn't that I had anything significant to say, just that I couldn't say anything.  Then things seemed compounded because even as I had some small amounts of human interaction, the normal reaction of people when you don't talk to them (or can't talk), they don't talk back to you, which creates further isolation.  At night I have taken to writing down questions on the whiteboard just so I can hear Rachel talk to me.  I am sure that it is hard for her and others as when you have a conversation using words, there is a normal interaction and affirmation back and forth and when you can't talk, that doesn't exist.  A one way discussion isn't very much fun on either end but it's ok to talk to me.

Just a few more days now of silence and then I can do more than just nod and smile.

I wanted to express some gratitude to the many people who have sent me encouraging messages and offered to help.  I feel pretty guilty to warrant such sympathy when I feel fine... but I am extremely grateful for you just to have taken the time to write to me.  The most comical interaction was when Jimm Giles asked on Tuesday if he could get me anything and I responded with one word: "cheeseburger."  Probably not what he was expecting to read.

Responding to an email or a text message at this point is just as good as being able to answer the phone and say hello since I get to use my words and it makes me feel normal.

Yesterday was also a significant step forward toward normalcy as I was able to get on the (bike) trainer after work last night and sweat a little.  I kept the intensity light so that I was not breathing heavily and staying inside instead of riding on the roads was helpful as the wind had no opportunity to dry out my vocal cords.  Though cleared to run immediately, I have just been taking long walks until the drainage in my throat goes away as I shouldn't be clearing my throat as it will aggravate the surgical areas.

I was also able graduate from liquids and eat real food!  I had a mashed up pot pie for lunch and then had soft noodles for dinner.  Rachel brought home coffee cake which was like a little slice of Heaven.  There really is not a hard limitation on food other than my throat is still very sore and with my tongue still being numb, it is hard to swallow.  That is why pudding was my friend at first but now I am slowly moving onto more solids.  My taste buds are numb, so even the normal saltiness of the noodles was not there for me.  As things continue to improve, I hope to enjoy my first crunchy food soon!

It was because of your thoughts and prayers that I am not one of the 3%.  Thank you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

These are the times that try men's souls

"These are the times that try men's souls." - Thomas Paine

Normally I have an extremely positive demeanor, but I never realized that not being able to talk, and thus being deprived from basic human interaction, would create such an isolated and lonely feeling.

Just 48 hours post surgery, I am struggling with my sanity.  This is much harder than I anticipated.  I just want to say, something.  Anything.

Rachel and I have been getting along by using the whiteboard for impromptu thoughts and questions and a text to voice app on my iPhone when I really need to say something.  But is it not the same as just uttering simple words like "I love you," "good night," or "thank you."  The dogs respond to hand gestures that accompany the the normal voice commands.

Its not that I can't speak.  The images taken of my vocal cords after surgery indicate that the papilloma were completely removed.  So that means that if I were to speak, my vocal folds would come together (instead of letting air pass through) and I would produce audible tones.  It is just that I should not speak if I want the recovery to go as quickly as possible.  Speaking, and allowing the vocal cords to come together, will just irritate the situation and prolong the return to normal.  This is one recovery that I can't afford to rush.

My throat is still very sore, although I can swallow today without pain.  My tongue is still numb so I can't really taste anything.  The drainage in my throat is marginally less than yesterday.  Everything above and below my neck feel great:)

Oh and I how I miss food.  I long for something crunchy.  The triumphant return of cereal later this week will be a milestone in my recovery.

I appreciate how delicate life is and how precious something like your voice is and how it is not until you can't speak that realize how important it is to your daily life.  The moral of the story is to not take anything for granted in life.  I know that this is easier to type, than do.

I am hoping that a return to running tomorrow will help with the endorphins that I am clearly missing.

Being able to turn to my words has been a therapeutic way of expressing my thoughts, emotions and what I am going through, regardless if they go unread by anyone else.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Not just a cheap date

Yesterday I went under general anesthesia for the third time in my life, all of which have been in the last 9 months. 

This time it was to address the initial diagnosis from my ENT that I had polyps on my vocal cords.  2014 has been a very difficult year for us to say the least and when it rains, it pours.  From wisdom teeth removal to the disastrous water pipe breakage to Siri having surgery to the broken air conditioner to Rachel losing a close friend and then everything compounded with the stress of a knee that won't heal from surgery and the final semester of grad school for Rachel, it seems like we just can't catch a break.  Not that everything was negative; we did get engaged and had a great vacation in Seattle and San Diego to celebrate, but it still seems like the world is conspiring against us.  Luckily we still have each other, the dogs and of course family and good friends who pray for us.  As I told Rachel this morning, things could be so much worse for us.

At the hospital yesterday, I was admitted early and it wasn't long before I was visited by the RN, Laura.  She told me about the entire process for the day, including details on the procedure that Dr. Teachy would perform.  She reminded me a number of times that should would be there the entire time during the surgery and when they woke me up.  She referred to one of the medicines she was administering as providing an similar effect of a tall margarita, but only gave me half a dose at first because some people are cheap dates.  Though I wasn't in the mood to laugh, her joke brought up my spirits when she had to give me the full dosage into my bloodstream and I still didn't feel anything.

There was a brief time before the anesthesiologist came in so I took the opportunity to pray a little and even dozed off.  When she arrived, we talked a bit about my vital signs.  My heart rate was 51 and I remarked that it was a little high today.  She then told me a lengthy story about once when she thought she had mercury poisoning and it caused her heart rate to drop very low.  Though she was weary scrubs, I imagine that based on her personality if I saw her in public, she would be wearing a flowery dress and Tevas, to say that she seemed like a free spirit.  

Dr. Teachy came to visit and further explained the procedure.  As with the first interaction I had with him, he was very brief and to the point.  I had to ask several questions that I felt were important that he did not initially cover.  My biggest concern was the cause and the probability of recurrence.  As I previously wrote, most of what I know about this condition was found on Google with very little coming from the Doctor himself.  His bedside manner in educating me was very poor at best.

The official diagnosis was that I was suffering from laryngeal papillomas on both vocal folds. This was much different than the initial analysis that I had vocal cord polyps. Papillomas are technically growths (termed neoplasms) which may be benign, pre-cancerous (termed dysplasia) or cancerous (termed malignant).  The majority of papillomas are benign but very rare, impacting less than 2 adults per 100,000 in the United States.  The probability that they may be cancerous is between 3-5% and will be determined through biopsy with results known on Thursday.  One of the most common causes other than by virus, is laryngopharynheal reflux (LPR) which I have a family history of on my mother's side.  It was good that this was diagnosed early, as laryngeal papillomas has no cure and may return at some point in my life.  Dr. Teachy did say that this is known to affect some long distance runners as they chronically have a suppressed immune system.  Some people will require multiple surgeries throughout their life to deal with this and for some it may stay in remission forever.  The surgery would involve a laser targeting the blood supply of each papilloma.  This is a very delicate procedure to limit the vocal cord scarring which may lead to permanent hoarseness.  

Finally I was brought into the operating room where there seemed to be a lot of activity.  I was relaxed and kept telling myself that despite the severity of my condition, this was a routine operation for these experts in their field.  I was wrapped up tightly with blankets that were bound to me with velcro, making me feel like a mummy.  I was very alert of my surroundings even several minutes into the anesthesia before ultimately falling asleep.  

I don't remember when I woke up but the first thing I did was ask if my nurse was there.  I don't know why I did this; maybe because she was the last person I saw before I zonked out and that she had said that she would be there the entire time.  Someone said that they called Rachel and she would be waiting for me in the recovery room.  The time lapse between that point and seeing Rachel may have been a few minutes or it may have been an hour, though I speculate that it was somewhere in between.  Rachel said that she tried to ask questions about the procedure and recovery to the doctor, but he was just as short with her as he was with me.  I don't know for sure but I feel like they were rushing to get me out of there.  

As compared to waking up from my knee surgery in February, this time felt much worse.  I was extremely groggy; like they woke me up too early and I was still under the heavy effects of the anesthesia.  I couldn't sit up or lift my arms, so Rachel had to help me get dressed.  I was fully alert but just had no ability to move.  It was very creepy, like being paralyzed.  I was put into a wheelchair to brought outside, where Rachel was parked right up front.  I had my eyes closed the entire time and felt my head bobbing, but I knew every turn, every stop sign and every lane change from driving this route hundreds of times since I have lived here.

I was able to get out of the car and walk inside with some help from Rachel.  We went straight to the bedroom where I laid down and was greeted by two licky beagles.  For the next few hours I would rotate between being fully awake and trying to remember all of the details from the day to being half asleep.  My tongue and throat were still numb, so I could not swallow at all.  Combined with the recommendation that I can not clear my throat, made it very difficult to breathe with the mucus build up in the back of my throat.  It sounds gross but I eventually found a good angle where it would just drain down the back of my throat if I had my mouth open just right.  Rachel brought in some pain meds and antibiotics that I choked down with some Gatorade.  I really did feel much more lucid than after my knee surgery and numerous times I encouraged Rachel to go to her two grad school classes.  She was adamant about staying home with me and I joked that she would just be watching me watch Netflix.  

Going from a 5,000 calorie per day diet down to zero is not easy.  I was very hungry and when Rachel came back from the grocery store with Jello and pudding, I was jealous of her eating Hardees.  I wanted a cheeseburger.  I finally got up around 6pm and ate some pudding which hit the spot.  I had good intentions of writing this blog last night, but I just didn't feel much like typing.  So while Rachel did homework, I laid on the couch with Siri and Fiina.  We watched a great show on the Food Network claiming that hamburgers were the perfect food.  It wasn't helping my growling stomach.  It felt good to lay upright so the fluid would continue to drain downward, so even as I fell asleep, I stayed on the couch for a couple of hours.  

Overnight and into this morning have not been that pleasant.  I still can't swallow very well and am very hungry but it hurts to eat anything.  I have been trying to drink as much Gatorade as I can to stay hydrated.  I woke up numerous times with my stomach growling and also with numbness in my left hand.  I took off one of the medical arm bands that may have been on too tight.

So onto the recovery mode... 7-10 days of absolute restricted talking.  I honestly haven't even tried as I am a little afraid about how it will feel.  After that, I can begin talking for 5 minutes per hour for the following week.  Then beyond that I will add more and more talking each week until about the 8-week mark in which I will be back to normal.  The doctor said that I could run right away if I wanted to; something that made all of this misery not seem so bad.  I will probably just rest, walk or ride the trainer for a few days or until my sore throat goes away.  I don't know how it will feel with intense breathing of a running workout on a sore throat.

So the immediate concerns will be addressed in two days when I find out the results of the biopsy.  The papilloma did not look cancerous and 97% of the time they aren't, but I won't feel better until I hear the positive results.  Beyond that, it will be regular checkups to make sure that they have not returned.  I really don't want to ever go through this again.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Managing Frustration

I am trying to remain positive and patient.

The best way to describe the interaction that I have had with the medical profession is like dealing with the keystone cops.  In other words, it feels like I am being routed from doctor to doctor, from building to building, from department to department and no one is privy to any information on the previous interaction.  There are delays in scheduling, phone calls not turned and questions are left unanswered.  I don't feel this is a reflection on all medical professionals, but right now I feel like given the current situation, I am being given the run around and kept in the dark.

Today I put a stop to all of it.  Here is what I mean.

I began to experience hoarseness on August 27.  I didn't want to rush to see my family doctor immediately for something that was really nothing, so I gave it two weeks.  Unfortunately, I had a 3 week work trip to New Zealand after that two weeks, so by the time of my initial visit to my family Doctor, I had been symptomatic for 5 weeks.  This is no one's fault and I am not complaining.

After seeing my family doctor, it was a 3 week wait in order to see Dr. Teachy at North Alabama ENT.  I have no problem using actual names.  He is well known within the Huntsville ENT community and came highly recommended.  So when I first met with Dr. Teachy, I had been experiencing hoarseness for 8 weeks.  The procedure involved putting a scope through my nose so that he could  examine my vocal cords.  The initial diagnosis was that I had 4 polyps on my vocal folds.  Dr. Teachy then indicated that the next step was to get imagery on the vocal cords to determine the actual severity.  I assumed that I would get to ask more questions, but he said there was a chance they could be cancerous, that surgery was required and then he went to see about scheduling.  He personally did not come back so I was left in the dark with my questions.  In the mean time, my ability to speak had diminished greatly, such that it was a strain to even whisper.  I went home and Googled frantically everything I could on vocal cord polyps, surgery, recovery, etc.

The next appointment was at the same facility, a week later, and with a different person.  I am not certain if they were an official doctor or a medical technician, but she conducted the imagery analysis of my vocal cords.  She was helpful and answered many of my questions, but also gave me what turned out to be false information.  She indicated that because of the severity, that they may prefer two separate surgeries, allowing for one side to heal prior to working on the other side.  I would later find out that the doctor would never perform this procedure at two separate times, but in the mean time, I am again left frantic on thinking that I may have to live through this recovery twice.

As I left that appointment, the surgery scheduler indicated that they could not get me into surgery before mid November,  I politely explained why this was unacceptable and she indicated that she would call me back.

The following day after that visit, I had to call back myself because I had not received a call from the scheduler.  I spoke with Dr. Teachy's nurse and the surgery scheduler.  They were now offering early November.  With a crackling voice with nearly zero audible tone, I asked if that was the earliest possible.  I waited patiently for the rest of the day waiting to see if there was anything that they could do.  There was no call back.

The day after that, I called back again to the surgery scheduler.  Now miraculously they had an opening on Monday, November 27.   Finally.  I accepted the appointment.

My frustration reached a new level in the whole process at this point because even though I have been to see the Doctor, a technician, a nurse and talked to a scheduler, no one had actually consulted with me on the recovery phase.  I hate to shout and use all caps, BUT YOU ARE ABOUT TO OPERATE ON MY VOCAL CORDS AND THE ONLY THING I KNOW ABOUT THE POST SURGICAL RECOVERY IS WHAT I HAVE READ ON GOOGLE.

So I called back in today and politely asked to speak with Dr. Teachy's nurse.  I indicated to the receptionist, that if I was not able to have a verbal conversation about the recovery before having the actual surgery, that there was not going to be an actual surgery.  How am I supposed to explain to Rachel (my fiance) what care I need, or to my employer how much time I will need without speaking, if I can't actually speak to tell them.  Yes I have gotten accustomed to typing things and making hand written notes, but there is no way I am going to have surgery on something so vital as my vocal cords without understanding the details.

So while my surgery is scheduled, until I hear from the nurse, I would not consider my attendance on Monday as confirmed.  Call me any name you want, but I want to understand how the surgery will be performed, the plan for recovery, the frequency of checkups and have confidence that I am getting the same factual information from everyone involved in the process.  I honestly don't have much confidence right now, knowing how I have been routed from person to person without any consistency (or complete lack thereof) of information about what is about to take place.

I feel like I am in the same room with people and they are talking about me and never to me.  Just because you perform this surgery ten times a week doesn't mean that I should be left in the dark for something that they determine is routine.  It is surgery.  There will be prolonged recovery (well from what I read on Google).  It is serious and I want to understand before I commit.

I did finally get a call back from the Doctor's nurse and was able to ask all of my questions.  It was a small victory.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Staying Positive

It is not difficult to figure out when your doctor is concerned simply by the way they ask their questions.

"So how long have you been hoarse?"

"This has never caused you any trouble before?"

"You can take a picture of this but you might not want to share it with your fiance since it might frighten her."

"I am surprised that you can talk at all."

"I don't know how you are able to run so fast with how much water (or lack of) that you drink."

This morning was my follow up visit with the ENT specialist to take pictures and video of my vocal cords.  The purpose was to assess the situation and develop a plan for surgery and recovery.  In other words, they needed to "see" how bad things really were.  The procedure started with a discussion so I knew what to expect and then they numbed my throat so I wouldn't gag.  The Doctor then held my tongue while playing a camera at the back of my throat.  There was a light shining down my throat that captured the imagery.  We went through several exercises where I made different sounds so she could see how my vocal cords were working (or not working in this case.)  Then we looked at the playback and compared my vocal folds to both normal vocal folds and to those that have a variety of conditions, which included cancerous cells of smokers.

I am going to try to focus on the positives of this visit and treat the negatives as just facts of life.

  • I don't have 4 polyps on my vocal cords as was initially diagnosed.  I have seven.
  • When you speak, your vocal cords should come together.  My right vocal cord is not moving at all. 
  • There is one polyp that is at the base where the folds come together that is the worst. 
  • Generally the polyps do not look to be cancerous.
  • I may have to undergo two separate surgeries so they can repair one side at a time and allow healing in between.  They may be a month apart, which would prolong the recovery of my voice.
Because it actually makes me a little sick to my stomach to think about these images, I have just linked to them and not included them within the text.  If you really want to see what healthy vocal cords look like and what mine look like, you are on your own.

I asked that the Doctor just be honest with me and to stop asking leading questions.  If you are concerned, then say that you are concerned.  Don't hide anything or make transparent statements.

My primary concern is to be able to speak normally again.  For now the prognosis was that after surgery and voice rehabilitation, this is possible.  Rejoice.  That means in time, I will return to a normal quality of life.  Knowing this, I then move down the list of importance.  I was able to ask a lot of questions about recovery both in terms of work and running as secondary concerns.


  • Initially I was worried that I would have to take weeks to months off of running based on research.  The Doctor indicated that only activities that strain the vocal cords, like weight lifting, need to be avoided.  When running (or other high intensity cardio workouts) the vocal cords actually relax to allow air passage and do not come together.  The Doctor said that I could run the next day if I felt up to it.  I almost peed my pants in excitement.  I said that my coach would be very happy to hear this!  

  • As thought, the first week post surgery will involve no talking whatsoever.   The second week may be a few sentences throughout the day, limiting the amount that I speak.  Then there will be a plan moving forward to increase the amount I can speak to the point where after 6-8 weeks I should be back to normal.  That said, during intense speaking circumstances (like 8 hours a day for 3+ days that I would normally perform during a work conference) there may need to be an approach of speaking for 30 minutes, then hydrating and resting for 30 minutes.  Knowing that I may require multiple surgeries to repair my vocal folds, returning to my normal speaking regiment at work may be further down the road than initially planned.
While the cause is still unknown, they suspect that the development of the polyps is due to a combination of factors.  The leading factor is a gastroesophageal reflux, which is a hereditary issue for me.  There are additional factors that make that worse, which include poor hydration and eating late at night (and then laying flat where the acid has a chance to creep up into the throat and irritate the vocal cords).

The immediate action items are to address the potential causes.  This includes proper hydration, not eating so late at night (or as close to bed time), putting the head end of the bed on small risers to create an incline (which keeps the acid down).  

The confusing part of this whole ordeal is when the actual surgery will be.  I think that the next step is that I have ANOTHER visit with the Doctor (who will perform the surgery) to develop a plan.  I had thought that the surgery would  be next week.  Based on availability, they wanted to schedule the next consultation for November 6.  That is two weeks away.  Luckily the Doctor from today indicated to the scheduler that it had to happen before then.  So I am waiting on a call to find out when the next appointment will be.  She did mention that there will be LOTS of appointments, consultations, check ups, etc throughout the process.  

So the good news for today is that the polyps don't look cancerous, it should not impact running and I will return to the same quality of life after surgery and recovery.  Let's focus on that for now and take things one step at a time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I fear not

After much prayer, I decided not to keep this a secret.  Writing has always helped me process the most difficult situations.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Back in August, I lost my voice during a presentation with a customer.  I attributed it to a heavy speaking regimen at work where I was delivering presentations at a higher frequency than normal.  My throat was very hoarse, but I had no other symptoms to speak of.  The situation was made worse when I went on a business trip to New Zealand for work and was speaking in a different city every day over a two week period.  Each morning my voice would start scratchy and by the end of the day, it would be non-existent.

When I got back home, I went to see m family physician, Dr. Krichev.  He referred me to Dr. Teachy, an ENT in Huntsville, but there was a 3 week period before my appointment.  I tried to use my voice sparingly, hoping that my vocal cords were simply strained and would recover on their own with some rest.

I tried to remain positive and hope for the best case scenario.

At my visit today, I was diagnosed with multiple vocal cord polyps that will require surgery to remove. They are probably caused by gastroesophageal reflux and a lifetime of overuse.  They have been building for a long time and finally just got bad enough to impact my speech.  The doctor indicated that they are most likely not cancerous, but will not know until they are removed and a biopsy is performed.

Deep breath.  Remain calm.  Then I almost cried in the Doctor's office.  I am afraid for the worst.

I asked a million questions ranging from what to expect to the success rate to the doctor's history performing this surgery.  While it may seem routine and minor, when he used the "C" word, my anxiety level reached an all time high.

This isn't a simple procedure to remove the torn meniscus in my knee after falling during Mountain Mist.  My voice is my life; it is my profession.  I am an engineer, but not great with numbers so I have built a career around professional speaking.  I enjoy more than anything to talk with people; about running, about life, about travel, about everything.

My voice is everything to me.

Deep breath.  Take things day by day. Only worry about the things that you can control and trust that God has a plan for the rest.

Recovery will be extensive and include a period of not talking for the first week, then just a few words during the second week.  Beyond that, there will be an extended period of limited speech which may last through the end of the year.  Post-surgical voice therapy typically will be involved to encourage healing, improve vocal quality, and prevent future polyps from occurring.  No coughing or throat clearing.  Exercise is still up in the air as to when that can begin after surgery.

Deep breath.  I can do this.  I came back from knee surgery and after just six weeks was able to win McKay Hollow Madness 25km.

So now begins the waiting period before surgery, which will be in two weeks.

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by some amazing people who have been and will continue to be supportive.  Family, friends, Rachel, Siri, Fiina, Lyla.  Your encouraging words have not fallen on deaf ears but have strengthen my resolve.

This could be worse.  This can still be worse.  This will not be worse.  I am strong.  My God will be with me wherever I go.  I fear not.

I will  overcome this minor obstacle just like every other challenge that has been presented before me; head on with voracity.

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;" - Psalm 23:4

Monday, August 25, 2014

10 Years of Raising Awareness

Why do I wear a LIVESTRONG bracelet?

For the last 10 years, I have worn a yellow silicone gel bracelet on my right wrist. While the reason I first put it on and the reasons I continue to wear it have changed, what has not changed is the fact that it has never been taken off; not once. The earliest documented proof that I can find in photos of having it on my wrist was at the Fox Cities 5km in Menasha, WI on September 26, 2004.  I had long hair and Siri was just a pup!

The bracelet was part of the "Wear Yellow Live Strong" educational program intended to raise money for cancer research, raise cancer awareness, and encourage people to live life to the fullest. Selling for $1 each, the initial plan was to raise $25.1 million for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The goal was reached within 6 months, and there have now been 80 million LIVESTRONG bracelets sold to date. The band became a popular fashion item in the United States by the end of the summer of 2004. Lance and his popularity were peaking as he was in the middle of his 7 victories at the Tour de France and whether you like him or not after his admissions of using performance enhancing drugs, he took that fame and turned it into some beneficial with the foundation. Everyone was wearing yellow and I will admit that the first time I put it on was just to be cool.

After the popularity of the bracelet had faded, I was tempted to take it off. They were still being worn by some athletes and people who had gone through personal loss as a result of cancer; neither of which I thought applied to me (as I had not taken my first step as a runner.) Or had it? Back in 2001 I was living in Neenah, Wisconsin, but a hundred miles away in my hometown of Kingsford, Michigan, my Uncle Donald Charette was diagnosed with cancer. Though I always called him my uncle, he was actually my cousin, as he was my dad’s older brother’s son. He had kids older that were older than me and was nearly my dad’s age so I always called him Uncle Donald. While we didn't have a day to day relationship, every fall when the leaves would change colors, the entire Charette clan would be at our hunting camps and spend most weekends together. I have many fond memories of him throughout the many cold Novembers in Upper Michigan.

The summer of 2001 my Uncle Donald had been in the middle of remodeling his camp and while the weather seemed hotter than normal, he had been losing weight. He didn't think much of it, but it turned out to be a side effect of the cancer that had taken over his body, which would quickly take his life. His funeral was more somber than others I had been to as everyone liked my Uncle Donald and was sadden how his life was taken so abruptly. It was at that time, that I dedicated my LIVESTRONG bracelet to his memory. Anytime I would look at my right wrist it would be what I needed to remember his contagious smile and think about his memory. While this probably should have been the reason why I put it on in the first place, at least it now had personal meaning to me.

(Left to Right) Jimmy Machus, Dennis Charette, Donald Charette and Dave LaVarnway.  

10 years.  That is 3,650 days or 87,658 hours or 5,259,600 minutes or 315,360,000 seconds. Through every step of the 30,000 miles I have run, at the finish line of the 325 races and now over the course of the 5,000 miles I have cycled.  Through every business meeting, every presentation, every state and country that I have visited.  Every day of the entire life of Sirius Beagle and now Fiina Beagle.  Even when I was asked to take it off during my recent knee surgery, I asked them to put the IV in my left arm after explaining my reasoning.  Through all of that I have kept it on with it never leaving my wrist.

So in a way, you could say that I have been living the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness for something that has taken the life of a close family member; one of the Charette men.  There are very few of us left; 5 to be exact.  I am the youngest of the line and if we all live out our lives to the fullest, I will be the last Charette of the line as none of us have any boys to pass on the name.

(Left to Right) Eric, Rodney, Dennis, John and Craig

Notes from the American Cancer Society indicate that nearly 600,000 men, women and children die from cancer every year in the United States.   That is over 1,600 deaths per day due to cancer.  ALS statistics are not as precise but one account shows that it is responsible for the deaths of 16 Americans per day.  That means that cancer kills 100 times more people, per day, than ALS.  Anytime life is taken with illness or disease prematurely it is sad, but I would rather raise awareness for something that has a greater impact on our country and for something that has impacted me personally.

I am glad to help out with raising awareness for ALS because of the nomination but I do it in honor of those who we have lost due to cancer.

Why do I wear a LIVESTRONG bracelet on my right wrist? As a reminder to remember.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ride Across Alabama

Five years ago, three men set out to run across the state of Alabama. In the process they changed peoples lives, including their own.

On July 1, 2009 Eric Schotz, Jon Elmore, and I stood at the Georgia border, ready to set out on a four day journey that would take us 180 miles across the state on foot.  But the journey really began in 2008 when Eric and his wife's 11-month old son, Elliott, was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease.  Tay-Sachs is a rare genetic disease that causes progressive deterioration of physical and mental capabilities.  Sadly, there is no cure for this disease and within just a few months of diagnosis, Elliott began to deteriorate as the disease ravaged function in his young brain, taking his ability to even respond.  Fortunately, Elliott was never to know or understand the extent of his degeneration, but was able to live out his days enjoying the things he loved:  sunshine, shiny balloons, his sister, Fiona, the jogging stroller pushed by his devoted dad. 

As soon as I heard that Eric was planning to honor his son and raise awareness for Tay-Sachs through ultra distance running, I knew I wanted to get involved.  Eric, Jon and I all had a special connection. We all were originally from Wisconsin and now all lived in northern Alabama.

We met early and often to plan the route, discuss logistics and raise money to donate to the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association. The plan was to start on July 1 and make our way westward, covering daily distances of 50, 50, 50 and 30 miles respectively until we crossed the border of Mississippi in Red Bay, Alabama on the 4th of July.  We would be joined along the way by friends and family who provided tremendous support in a variety of ways including, but not limited to running and crewing along the course.

It is an understatement to say that Alabama in July is hot, hot, hot! We ran under a perpetually blazing sun and often times wore long sleeves to prevent overexposure from its rays.  Deyhrdation was a constant threat and serious concern. At the end of the first day, Jon Elmore succumbed and was taken to the emergency room for a round of IV fluids.  Fatigue set in and compounded, making each step more arduous than the last. Thankfully, we had our crew close by so we were able to refuel when needed.  Our crew was such a welcome sight with their handmade signs and cheers of motivation.  Sometimes we walked, other times we ran, but with each step we made a difference, for Elliot, and for others like him.  Maybe we couldn't save Elliott's life in those four days, but we could help contribute to helping save the many lives of others.

Despite the low-low points, the high points were in the heavens. When Elliott was able to join us along the route, seeing his smiling face or sleeping body in the jogging stroller, took away all our pain. Eric would often say that the cure for Elliott's fussiness would be a run in the stroller. Seeing him pushed along became a cure for our fussiness.

One of the most moving experiences of my life took place over the last six miles as we approached the Mississippi border. Despite the fatigue and pain that we all felt, Eric and I were able to pick up our pace and run like the wind! I can only describe it as magical. I invite you to read about that specific experience in a blog I posted just days after we finished, titled: "4 Days of Pain that will fade and 10 kilometers I will never forget."

The exhilaration of that final mile was almost too much to handle. The three of us were overwhelmed with emotion. I told Eric that it was my honor to share in the pain of the last four days and in this experience with him. Jon mentioned that there was no place that he would rather be. Eric put his hand on my shoulder for a few seconds, as he had done two days earlier when I was sitting in the crew vehicle temporarily sidelined with pain, but this time to convey his thanks.

Through our effort, we became an inspiration for others.  Though it did not save the life of sweet Elliott, who passed away in May of 2010,  it did teach us and those around us to embrace each day.  Elliot brought many people together for a greater good.

In the years since, I have often wondered how I could continue to honor Elliott's memory, spirit, and life-lessons.  After a recent surgery to remove a tear in the meniscus of my left knee (suffered during a personal best time in Mountain Mist 50k), I started biking more frequently as an alternative to running.  Now, four months after the surgery, I still have pain that is preventing me from running at my previous level.  This injury has given me perspective on many things in my life and given me time to consider how I could honor the Schotz family and do something positive in Elliot's memory.  I decided that I would travel along the same route our little group ran in 2009, but this time on my road bike. On 4th of July, exactly five years after we finished our run across the state for Elliot, I plan to ride all 180 miles in a single day.

I have had great support from my fiancee Rachel, who has put up with me spending hours and hours on the saddle and Saturday morning alarms that ring long before the sun rises, so that I could train to complete this distance.  Rachel will be my crew on the 4th of July by riding along and providing support and I am thrilled to be able to share this journey with her by my side.  Elliott inspired me then to do what I could to raise awareness for Tay-Sachs (along with Eric and Jon) by pushing our physical and mental abilities.  On the 4th, I will do the same again and hope that my small effort really can make a difference.

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1Continue onto AL-117 NStraight0
2Turn left onto Co Rd 896.1Left6.1
3Turn right onto Desoto Parkway0.1Right6.2
4Turn right onto Co Rd 6045.6Right11.8
5Turn left onto Gault Ave N2Left13.9
6Turn left to stay on Gault Ave N5Left18.9
7Turn right onto Glenn Blvd SW2.9Right21.8
8Turn left onto Pine Ridge Rd SW2.3Left24.1
9Continue onto Old Hwy 35 E0.4Straight24.5
10Turn left onto Long Hollow Cir0.4Left24.9
11Turn left onto Co Rd 880.2Left25.1
12Turn right onto Co Rd 4611.7Right26.8
13Turn left onto Co Rd 4580.9Left27.7
14Sharp right onto Co Rd 523.6Right31.3
15Turn left onto Lebanon Rd0.6Left32
16Continue onto Co Rd 573.1Straight35
17Turn right onto Lebanon Rd0.2Right35.2
18Turn left onto Co Rd 522Left37.2
20Continue onto Salem Rd0.8Straight42.1
21Slight left onto Crow St0.1Left42.2
22Turn right onto Co Rd 1113.9Right46.1
23Turn left onto Co Rd 5681.5Left47.5
24Continue onto Baker Rd0.8Straight48.4
25Continue straight onto Asbury Rd1.5Straight49.9
26Slight right onto Martling Gap Rd0.3Right50.2
27Turn left onto AL-227 N4.2Left54.4
28Turn left onto Florida Short Route/Gunter Ave6.5Left60.9
30Turn right onto Henry St0.2Right61.3
31Turn right onto Eddy Scant City Rd7.5Right68.8
32Continue onto Ruth Rd NW4.7Straight73.5
34Turn right onto Apple Grove Rd6.8Right80.3
35Turn left onto Crawford Rd0Left80.3
36Turn right onto AL-67 N2.1Right82.4
37Turn left onto Gum Pond Rd0.2Left82.6
38Turn right onto Lawrence Cove Rd0.3Right82.9
39Turn left to stay on Lawrence Cove Rd2.3Left85.2
40Slight left onto Gandys Cove Rd5.6Left90.8
41Turn right onto Nat Key Rd3.5Right94.3
42Turn right onto N Robinson Rd3.6Right97.9
43Turn right onto S Cedar Cove Rd0.8Right98.7
44Turn left onto Lawrence Rd0.3Left98.9
45Turn left onto N Cedar Cove Rd1Left100
46Continue onto Burleson Rd0.9Straight100.8
47Turn right onto Brownee Ln0.5Right101.4
48Turn left onto E Parker Rd0.2Left101.6
49Turn left onto Rock St SE3.1Left104.7
50Turn right onto Milner St SE0.4Right105
51Turn left onto Main St E0.2Left105.2
52Turn right onto Stewart St SW0.6Right105.8
53Continue onto Vaughn Bridge Rd NW0.4Straight106.3
55Turn left onto Danville Rd6.2Left112.5
56Slight right onto Iron Man Rd1.3Right113.7
57Continue onto Co Rd 722.9Straight116.7
58Turn right onto Co Rd 2032.9Right119.5
59Turn left onto Co Rd 870Left119.5
60Slight right to stay on Morgan St6.2Right125.8
61Turn left onto Court St1.1Left126.9
63Turn left to stay on County Rd 4604.5Left132
64Continue onto Moulton Rd/Old State Rte 249.6Straight141.6
65Continue onto Route 242.8Straight144.4
66Turn left onto AL-24 W6.6Left151
68Turn right onto Old State Rte 245.4Right159
69Continue onto County Rd 5241.3Straight160.2
70Slight left to stay on County Rd 5241.1Left161.4
71Turn right onto AL-24 W4.7Right166.1
72Turn left onto County Rd 4240.2Left166.3
73Turn left onto AL-24 W1.8Left168.1
74Turn right onto 4th St9.5Left177.6
75MS / AL Border2.2Straight179.8

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Road to Recovery: Epilgoue

Back in January during one of the greatest races of my career, I suffered a medial tear in the posterior horn of the meniscus in my left knee.  I went on to complete the last 10 miles of Mountain Mist 50km after the trauma.  On February 12th I had surgery to remove the tear and chronicled the first 50 days of my post-surgical recovery in a recent blog post, which was through March 29th.  At that point, I felt like my knee was about 60% healthy.

During the month of April I continued to ramp up my training with a few structured workouts, while still keeping the total amount of running (and impact) to a minimum.  I supplemented additional time on the bike to maintain my overall level of fitness.  I ran a few races and even posted a decent 5km time of 17:42 on a negative split approach at Cookie Dash in mid April and a very good run segment at the Lake Guntersville duathlon later in the month.  

Sometime around the beginning of May, I realized that my pain level was about the same as where I should have been at 8 weeks post surgery.  In other words, excluding the setback of McKay Hollow, I had made no progress in about a month of healing.  I thought that even though I was ultra conservative with my comeback approach to that point, that maybe another month of recovery would be best.  So I decided to remove nearly all running and just cycle or do elliptical (non impact activities) and then re-evaluate in early June.

Fast forward to early June and the nagging pain that I felt 4 weeks early was still present so I scheduled an appointment to see Dr. Cantrell again (my orthopedic surgeon).  My visit to him took him by surprise as normal patients have completely healed within 4 months of surgery.  He quickly was able to locate the pain point, which is on the inside of my left knee; the same location as the previous tear.  He speculated that there was an outside chance that it was another tear, maybe bone marrow edema or maybe a tear of another kind.  He ordered an MRI, which I was fortunate enough to have later that day.

Just 24 hours later I was able to get back in to see Dr. Cantrell.  Hoping for answers, I was just ready to know what was happening so I could set a course of action to recover and start training again.  The MRI results ruled out any other type of tear (ACL/MCL) and also ruled out the BME.  There also were no traces of an obvious tear, but it was difficult to determine if there was an additional microscopic tear, as the meniscus had already been partially removed. 

At this point we discussed two course of action, which included a second surgical procedure (which the scoping may find nothing, or it may find another tear, which would be removed).  In this case it would either rule out another tear or remove it and the recovery would be another 2-3 months.  The second course would assume no tear and that it was just taking longer than normal to heal.

I suggested another month of non impact activities and continue to cycle.  My goal for the year was to run the New York Marathon in November, for which I qualified and was accepted.  If I ran it, I would need a 16 week training cycle, which would begin in mid July.  So from now until mid July is about a month to allow for any additional healing.  Dr. Cantrell said that if it was his knee, he would take the latter approach and begin to run on it then and see how things go.  He suggested anti-inflammatories to help get through some workouts as the training would begin, and then over time as the healing progressed, I could wean off of them.

So that's that.  I have happy that there is not an additional tear, but at the same time there is nothing there that should be causing the pain I have on a daily basis.  I am going to make the best of the situation and pray that when the time comes to start training for my goals, that the pain will be manageable and eventually that it will not exist at all.

Thank you all for the continued prayers; they have been helpful.  This is God's plan and I am making the best of it.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Road to Recovery

The Injury

Saturday January 25. 2014
Raced Mountain Mist 50km, posting a personal  best 4:23 and finishing 4th overall.  During the race I fell hard several times on some rocky terrain.  Unbeknownst at the time, I had torn the meniscus in my left knee.

Abnormal Recovery

Sunday January 26. 2014
Flew to San Antonio for a work conference.  Felt more stiffness than usual post ultra marathon.  Difficulty getting up after sitting down for just a few minutes.

Monday January 27 - Wednesday January 29. 2014
Though presenting at the conference, spent most of the time seated.  Wore compression to speed recovery, but had tremendous difficulty getting up and getting around.  Tried to work out the kinks on the hotel elliptical but did not run.

Discovery and Decisions

Thursday January 30. 2014
Realized that something was not right with my left knee.  Before traveling home, made an appointment with my family Doctor for Friday.

Friday, January 31. 2014
Went to see my family doctor (Dr. Jon Krichev).  He took x-rays and suspected an MCL issue but order an MRI for later in the day to confirm.  The MRI was at 5pm that same day.  

Saturday, February 1. 2014
MRI results were not due until Monday but still too painful to run.  Went to a spin class (wearing a knee brace for stability) with Rachel.  The spinning motion of the stationary bike (at UAH) was not as painful as walking or running.

Sunday, February 2. 2014
Another spin class at UAH with Rachel before the Super Bowl.  Nervous about the looming MRI results.  The pain is borderline unbearable.

Monday, February 3. 2014
Got on the elliptical during lunch before the MRI results.  Painful and slow but felt good to sweat a little.  MRI results came in the afternoon; torn meniscus.  I spent the rest of the night researching the injury and trying to analyze the MRI scans.  Scheduled appointment to meet with the Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Cantrell at The Orthopaedic Center (TOC) for Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 4. 2014
Met with Dr. Cantrell and he confirmed the torn meniscus.  He said that due to the location of the injury, it does not get much blood flow and would never heal.  I might have some days without pain but it would not go away.  They do not repair a tear, but remove it.  He suggested that I have the surgery; I knew it was inevitable and wanted to do it as quickly as possible and scheduled it for Friday afternoon.   Dr. indicated that I could not tear it any more so for the rest of the week leading into surgery I could cycle if I wanted, and just to use pain as my guide.  I went to a spin class at Blevins that night on my Trek. 

Wednesday, February 5. 2014
Spin class at Blevins on my Trek.

Thursday, February 6. 2014
With just 24 hours left before surgery, I got on the elliptical at lunch.  The pain is tolerable during exercise with the knee compression brace but after it gets worse.  Surgery was the right choice and I am now at peace with it.


Day 0: Friday, February 07, 2014
Surgery to remove a medial tear in the posterior horn of the meniscus in my left knee.  Used crutches to get into the car.  Slept the rest of the afternoon and night.  Rachel took great care of me.

Immediate Aftermath

Day 1: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Very sore from surgery.  Used crutches to get around the house.  Managed to feel well enough to go to dinner with Rachel as surprise for Amanda's 30th birthday.

Day 2: Sunday, February 09, 2014
Mostly icing and keeping my knee elevated/  Crutches to get around. Taking pain meds regularly.  Rachel is key to the entire weekend, taking care of me, waiting on me and helping me get around.

Recovery Phase 1

Day 3: Monday, February 10, 2014
Started physical therapy with Andrea at Nesin.  She was great last year to help with my PF and was the clear choice for PT this time.  Had to get outside; went to the church down the street and walked in the grass for 1/3 mile on crutches.  Almost cried in pain.  Dr. indicated that walking was fine for this week.

Day 4: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Managed to walk 1 mile without crutches.

Day 5: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Physical therapy at Nesin.  Afterward, managed to walk 1 mile without crutches.  Enjoyed the company of the Beagles.

Day 6: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Walked 3 miles around the neighborhood.  Limping severely and favoring the left side.  Wearing compression brace for stability.

Day 7: Friday, February 14, 2014
Follow up with Dr. Cantrell.  He said that things were going well, about how he expected.  I asked if it was ok to start biking (on the trainer) at home and he said that was a good idea.  The trainer arrived in the mail so timing was perfect.  After work, took the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood, logging 4.75 miles.  Just one week post surgery.

Recovery Phase 2

Day 8: Saturday, February 15, 2014
90 minutes on the trainer, wearing a knee brace.  Taking pain meds only once a day, just before exercise.  Missed the first running of Tick Ridge 25km.

Day 9: Sunday, February 16, 2014
60 minutes on the trainer, wearing a knee brace.  Still no running but its all part of the plan.  Had to travel to Detroit for work.  Was very painful to remain seated that long without being able to stretch.

Day 10: Monday, February 17, 2014
Attempted the elliptical at lunch wearing the knee brace at the hotel before my work meeting.  Still very painful and slow just with the elliptical motion.  Attempted yoga at Fleet Feet, but many poses not possible.  Still a lot of swelling in my knee and can't go into hands and knee position.

Day 11: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Hit the bike trainer for an hour after work.  Much pain at night while sleeping.  Trying to keep my knee elevated but can't roll over onto my side or stomach without pain.

Day 12: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Physical therapy with Andrea at Nesin.  Still lots of swelling, little range of motion.  Got on the trainer for 90 minutes at a good cadence after work.

Day 13: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Felt good enough to try the elliptical again at lunch and then sat on the trainer after work for awhile.

Day 14: Friday, February 21, 2014
Physical therapy in the morning with Andrea then walked for 1 mile with Rachel and the dogs after work.  Also got on the trainer for an hour.  It is still the least painful option for exercise.  Still wearing knee brace and no attempt at running.  Two weeks post surgery.

Day 15: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Two hours on the trainer followed by a 3 mile walk with the beagles.  Missed Black Warrior 25km for the first time in a long time.  Despite the mud and horse manure, I have always liked this race and have done very well at it over the years.

Day 16: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Just 16 days after surgery, I was able to bike outside for the first time.  25 miles at a steady pace with SE and DM.

Day 17: Monday, February 24, 2014
Physical Therapy in the morning with Andrea.  We are starting to work on some basic mobility and strengthening exercises.  Fast 20 miles on the trainer in the living room, making my way through all seven years of Hogwartz with Harry Potter on dvd.  The dogs are starting to wonder what I am doing.

Recovery Phase 3

Day 18: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Plan was to start "running" some this week, which was cleared by Andrea and Dr. Cantrell.  I made it 1 mile in about 15 minutes, alternating a walk and a jog for a few seconds.  It was encouraging, yet discouraging at the same time.  Just a month earlier I was in the best shape of my life at Mountain Mist 50k and now I am struggling to jog.  Hopped on the trainer for 30 minutes to loosen things up after the "run".

Day 19: Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Physical therapy in the morning then later "ran" 2 miles around the block.  Much the same intensity as yesterday.  Still favoring the left knee and wearing the brace.  Added 90 minutes on the trainer before dinner.

Day 20: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Elliptical at lunch for 6 miles then 2 miles very slow on the treadmill.  Can't hold a steady pace, so alternating between jogging and walking.  Later got on the trainer for 30 minutes before dinner.

Day 21: Friday, February 28, 2014
Physical therapy in the morning and then 45 minutes on the trainer after work.  Still have a fair amount of swelling and pain.

Day 22: Saturday, March 01, 2014
50 miles on the trainer.  Ouch.  20 minute warm up, 8x short hill repeats, high cadence, 2x long hill repeats, high cadence, cool down.  Broke it up into hour long blocks, getting off in between.  2 hours and 37 minutes on the saddle.  Right off the bike went out to run. Minimal discomfort in my knee but not tolerable at a slow pace with the dogs.

Day 23: Sunday, March 02, 2014
Decent weather, so rode from home, up and over Cecil, Old Big Cove and to Flint River Greenway. Then with pals down on old 431 for a few and then back. Very windy.  26.83 mi in 01:28 18.3mph.  Still wearing knee brace for stability and a crutch.

Training Phase 1

Day 24: Monday, March 03, 2014
24 days after knee surgery I ran my first structured workout. Had been maintaining fitness in the bike (300 miles in the last two weeks) but it was time to test things out with racing flats. Surprisingly all of the doctors want me to start training again.  30 minute easy warm up then 12x1 minute ON followed by 1 minute recovery on the treadmill.  Managed to work down to 5:30 pace by the end. Wrapped up with mile cool down.  The joint is still sore and I feel it in every step but it is tolerable. The plan will be to lengthen the intervals tomorrow.  Feeling ambitious, I hoped on the trainer after work for 30 minutes.

Day 25: Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Day 2 of testing my legs and fitness. 25 days since knee surgery.  On the treadmill, 4 mile warm up + 4x400m (1:42, 1:40, 1:38, 1:35) with 60s recovery + 2x800m (3:07, 3:03) with 90s recovery + 2x400m (1:28, 1:25) with 60s recovery + 1 mile cool down.  Felt good by progressing the pace faster on each repetition. First set of intervals at 400m+ since mid December when I switched to trails and tempo running for Mountain Mist. Pretty pleased with the start.  Came down with a chest cold and lost voice during presentations.

Day 26: Wednesday, March 05, 2014
On the trainer, 30 minute warm up followed by 4x long hill repeats before cool down.  Then went to PT, followed by a 4 hour drive to Atlanta for work.  Stopped several times to get out and stretch along the way to prevent stiffness.  Chest cold seems hanging on.  Can't breathe very well.

Day 27: Thursday, March 06, 2014
With no work meeting until lunch, went to the local gym in the morning (Hotel gym was closed so headed to LA Fitness before meetings).  27 days post knee surgery and battling a head cold/congestion.  On the treadmill, did 4 mile warm up + 2x200m (0:48, 0:48) + 2x400m (1:34, 1:34) + 2x200m (0:45, 0:45) + 2x400m (1:30, 1:30), + 2x200m (0:42, 0:42) + 2x400m (1:24, 1:24) + 2x200m (0:40, 0:40) + 1 mile cool down.  All in all, totaled 2.50 miles of speed in 14:46 progressing from 9.2mph to 11.1mph with 5:54 ave pace.  This was very hard but from a fitness standpoint, but if I had any thoughts of racing on Saturday, I needed to test things out.  Could barely talk during the meetings, even though taking meds for the chest cold and cough drops for my throat.  After meetings, had long 4 hour drive back home in the car.

Day 28: Friday, March 07, 2014
Kept things very light; 5 miles on the elliptical at the wellness center.

Day 29: Saturday, March 08, 2014
Up very early to meet Dink at 6am to setup for the race. Temps were upper 30s during setup and 40 by race time. Wasn't sure if I was going to run but after a couple of easy warm up miles in sweatpants I felt ok so I gave it a shot. Just 4 weeks post surgery and have only ran a handful of times this week. Chased down the front runner by the 1/2 mile mark and put in a surge past him to create a small gap. Split the first mile in 5:36. After that we turned into the wind and I eased up a bit since I couldn't breathe much from the upper respiratory infection. Mile 2 was 5:56 and mile 3 was 6:06 and change for 18:21. Could have gone a little faster but on the comeback I did only what I had to today. Knee still hurts on every step but I think it is getting better. Just hope to be able to kick this infection soon so I can breathe and my voice can come back; haven't been able to talk since Tuesday. 4th win in a row at Care Center 5k.

After the race, went out on the bike for a few hours of planned riding,  Got a flat after an hour and my spare tube was flat.  Quite the malay.  Got things in order but headed back early on an under inflated tire, logging only 33 miles.

Day 30: Sunday, March 09, 2014
Six weeks since Mountain Mist (my last trail run) and four weeks post knee surgery.  From hairpin, up the road, out on MM, up War Path, down Rest Shelter, slush mile, up Death, blue and road back.  Still can't breathe well with the chest congestion, but I was able to run all of War Path and Death Trail climbs. It was painful on my knee to go down hill so I took that slow. Wore my knee brace for stability and watched my footing.  Overall pretty happy to be back on the trails just a week back to running regularly. I missed the woods.  In the afternoon, headed out on the bike with Jeremy and Justin Carter from Flint River Greenway, out Cherry Tree into New Hope and back. Steady pace considering the wind. Temp was 70 degrees. Rode point mostly and pulled for about 2/3 the ride. Felt really good on the climbs and much better than yesterday.

Day 31: Monday, March 10, 2014
Physical therapy in the morning and an hour on the elliptical over lunch.  Andrea is recommending that I only run every other day at most and not to push it to everyday just yet.  I trust her expert advice.

Day 32: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Wanted to keep the repeats shorter to work on basic speed and my form.  2.5 mile warm up (7:55, 7:07, 3:30).  Then 2x200m (38, 39) + 2x400m (80, 80) + 2x200m (38, 38) + 2x400m (77, 78) + 2x200m (37, 37) + 1x400m (79) + 2x200m (36, 37) + 1x400m (74). All with 200m recovery.
2.5 miles of speed in 12:53 (5:09 ave pace).  Then 1 mile cool down.  Medically cleared to train doesn't mean it's not going to hurt. Lungs were improved, although I did find out today that I have an upper respiratory infection so that explains the shortness of breathe and wheezing. Calves are very fatigued. They just aren't used to the intensity. Knee is painful. Very. Need to ice and lay off it tomorrow. Dr. Cantrell said I am not hurting it further by running on it but I might piss it off from time to time until it's fully healed. I'm still favoring the left. Weather was windy at 5pm and 73 degrees in early March!

Also went to see family Dr. Krichev for my chest cold.  Turns out it was an upper respiratory infection and I needed to get on antibiotics right away.

Day 33: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
On the trainer. Knee is barking after track last night. Needed to take it easy.

Day 34: Thursday, March 13, 2014
Got to work in the morning and stayed for maybe 30 minutes before getting dizzy.  Had a horrific reaction to the Erythromycin.  Vomiting, diarrhea, cold sweats, no appetite.  Probably ranks as top 5 worse illnesses of my life.  No ability to move, let along exercise.

Day 35: Friday, March 14, 2014
So weak from yesterday. Had not eaten anything (that stayed down) in over 40 hours. Hoped that a little sweat would bring my appetite back after being sick. It did not. Hope that another night of rest and I will feel more alive.

Day 36: Saturday, March 15, 2014
Drove down to Guntersville for a run/ride combination. Still felt very weak from the pukefest on Thursday and very dehydrated. Ran 1 mile warm up and couldn't run for more than a few hundred feet without stopping. So knowing that it was an awful idea (but with very low expectations) I tossed down $25 and pinned on my bib.  Ran behind a young kid for the first 4 miles pacing off of him. The course rolled along but the pace was pretty even 1, 2, and 3 but slowed a lot on mile 4 so I decided it was time to take off. Mile 5 has two Cotton Rowesque hills and I mustered enough strength to put some time on him and then ran my fastest mile at the end. Far from my best but given all the circumstances, I'm happy with the effort.  Small race, maybe 100 people but with a long 36 year history. Glad that I was able to hold it together and not throw up and run a race I've never run before. 6:08, 6:15, 6:11, 6:22, 6:15, 5:55, 1:27 = 38:37

Post race, easy out from the rec center in Guntersville with SE, TO, GD, PE, DT and a couple others. Windy on the way out. Came back much faster and added on some rolling hills and climbs toward the end that dropped the ave. Started running low on gas toward the end. Really low on energy from illness on Thursday. Still fun ride in the pretty country.

Day 37: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Still eying McKay Hollow Madness as my true comeback race, I wanted a little more exposure to trails so on a rainy and cold day, headed to Green Mountain for the DD4C run with RG and PE. Easy loop climbing from the start running the CW direction of the big loop. Paul had a nasty fall late and gashed his nose. I have not seen that much blood in a long time. We walked in the last mile from there so he could make it to the hospital.

Training Phase 2

Day 38: Monday, March 17, 2014
With MHM just a few days away, I needed to get aggressive with my training.  While anything I did this week will probably not help on Saturday, I needed to try.  4 mile warm up then 20x200m hill repeats at 10% grade (58, 58, 58, 58, 57, 57, 57, 57, 55, 55, 55, 55, 54, 54, 54, 54, 52, 52) all with 90s recovery. 1,320' of climb in 2.5 miles. 1 mile cool down. Still a lot of knee pain. Lungs are 80% after respiratory infection. Touch of dehydration from the antibiotics reaction.

After the run headed out to the airport and off to Dallas for work.

Day 39: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Busy work day and travel back home so no time or capacity to exercise.

Day 40: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
1.75 mile warm up 7:38, 5:26 from INGR over Edgewater then 3x2k on the greenway around the lake 7:32 (6:00), 7:29 (5:59), 7:10 (5:43) with 2 min jog recovery. Then 2.75 mile cool down 7:49, 7:29, 5:27. Very windy on the second repeat which required more effort than the first or the third. Rest day yesterday during work travel seemed provide a little hop in my step today but still have pain in left knee with every step. Praying for patience while the man upstairs provides healing.

Day 41: Thursday, March 20, 2014
Needed some mental confidence, so headed out to the trails for an easy loop.  From Burritt, six mile CCW loop climbing Natural Well.  Felt decent; no longer dehydrated but still not 100% post sickness.  Did not wear knee brace.  Looks like I will be ready to roll the dice on Saturday and see where the chips fall.

Day 42: Friday, March 21, 2014
Beautiful afternoon, so took the beagles for a short trail hike.

Day 43: Saturday, March 22, 2014
My favorite race of the year and my goal coming off of surgery six weeks ago.  For the full race report, click here.

Started out running comfortably hard on the road section and then down into the sinks. Rob caught up as we climbed up Panther Knob and we ran an honest pace together for awhile. I lead the way up from 3 benches, out on Mountain Mist and then up War Path. It was painful going down Rest Shelter as the jarring on my knee made me very tentative on each step. I slowed down just past Kathy's bench and as we made the hard right, I stepped aside so Rob could lead. I felt like I was holding him back. First 6 miles of splits were 6:49 (road), 8:38 (Panther Knob), 7:59 (3 benches climb), 7:58 (Mountain Mist), 8:33 (War Path Climb), 8:04 (down Rest Shelter).

We chatted a bit and then he put some distance on me through Slush Mile and I thought the race was over. But somehow he came back to me before Natural Well and we climbed together up past the well, up through Panorama Bluff, back down to Natural Well and out to Burritt. I just tried to stay with him no matter what, so as his pace varied, mine varied too. We made the turn and headed back for the bushwhack around the ditch and then climbed back up the slight hill toward the fast drop back down Arrowhead. I still stayed with him and my confidence was growing as the race progressed. We ran past the cistern and then down Big Cat. I could tell that Rob was not attacking the downhills like he usually would. Later he mentioned that he still felt fatigue of 72 miles at Delano in his legs. We sharpied and climbed back out onto Natural Well. Splits for next section were 8:24 (Slush mile), 11:35 (Natural Well Climb +) 9:21 (Natural Well atop), 8:30 (Through Burritt and the turn), 9:14 (Natural Well), 8:14 (down to the cistern)

I said that I would set the pace for awhile and figured that we would just take turns; I lead the first 6, he lead the next 6 and then we would figure it out at the end. I didn't feel like I picked it up that much, but I guess I was preserving energy while pacing with Rob and just took off. I dropped down into the bottom of McKay, crossed the stream and then ran every step of Cry Baby. I was feeling good, but Death Trail loomed. Splits after I took the lead were 8:19 (flats), 8:50 (across the creek, up Cry Baby).

I didn't crush Death Trail by any means; I ran where I could and power walked the rest. Just a nice steady climb to the finish. My DT time split was 9:53. I stopped and kissed Rachel at the summit and ran it in for 1st OA. 2:13:54. About 11 minutes slower than last year; course was maybe 3-4 minutes slower with the course changes.

Feel very fortunate to have won this race twice now. Finished the race all 7 times it has been run (rain out in 2010) with career finishes of 5, 4, 2 (Riddle), 3, 2 (Mader), 1, 1.  I hate to dwell on it, but I have only been running for the last 3 weeks and still in a lot of pain. The 3 weeks before that was post surgery and the two weeks before that was no running after the meniscus tear. So 8 weeks since Mountain Mist and this was my longest run by 8 miles. I still have a long way to go but this is a great motivational lift.


Day 44: Sunday, March 23, 2014 to Day 49: Friday, March 28, 2014
Work travel to Toronto from Sunday morning through missing a flight home on Friday night and having to drive from Atlanta.  Totally aggravated my knee by racing McKay Hollow.  Probably set my recovery back at least 2-3 weeks.  Was able to jog a few times on the treadmill while in Canada, but it felt like I was 4 weeks post-op, not 7.

Starting Over

Day 50: Saturday, March 29, 2014
6 miles easy warm up then tried first structured workout after McKay. 7 weeks since surgery but after McKay, knee feels like it did a month out when I first started picking up the intensity. 20x1 minute on the treadmill with increasing pace with 1 minute recovery. 4x7:30 pace, 4x6:59 pace, 4x6:31 pace, 4x6:07 pace, 4x5:46 pace. 5k distance in 20 minutes (6:27 ave pace). Then cool down. Knee is probably 60%. Mid foot striking is less painful than slow heel striking. Will need to take things slowly.  Still need to take pain meds before any intense workouts to curb the pain.

Moving Forward

Of course the story doesn't end at day 50.  It is now early April and I have had good days, followed by bad days.  Some days my knee hurts pretty badly and I can't run on it with any intensity and other days I don't hardly notice it.  I would say that it is now 75% and improving.  I am glad that I took a slow approach to recovery by walking, then cycling and then starting to mix in a few runs before training kicked in.  I don't regret racing McKay Hollow and setting myself back; that was totally worth it.  Now I just need to continue to be smart moving forward.

I am very thankful for the care I received and continue to receive at Nesin with Andrea and for the loving support of my Rachel; she has been amazing even when I try to do things that we both know I shouldn't try to do.  She helps me up from the couch when I can't stand up because of the lingering pain and she never complains.  I don't know what I would do without her.